This work might easily have borne the title "Ioculator Domini," the Lord's jester or the Lord's clown. At the hands of Manselli, Francis, twelfth-century citizen of Assisi and merchant, was summoned by the grace of God to follow the particular path of life lighted by the vision of the incarnate Christ who came among the lowest of the low (to the stable, to the manger, in the company of the ox and the ass and the shepherds), whose life was characterized by association with the likes of tax collectors, lepers, the marginalized, whose death was complete rejection by his own people - a colossal failure.
For Francis the translation of Christ's life into his own took the form of the jester, the clown - the lowest of the low, the butt of ridicule, the person of non-status. As the ioculator Domini, he embraced the leper, the outcasts, those on the edges of society; as the clown of the Lord he rejected property and status. His was the desire to be less than all others, to be, as was Christ, the lover of those least loved.
As the elevation of the "fraternity" to the rank of "order" necessitated the status of permanent buildings and insured rank and position for his followers, Francis looked wistfully to the distant outlines of the early ideals. As he found himself in charge of a full-fledged order, leader of an important group of people whose ranks were expanding throughout the world, he struggled to remain afloat amid the ever-rising tide of status.
At last, caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of authority and minority, Francis resigned as leader of the Order of Friars Minor, contenting himself with the role of giving the example of the Christ of the gospel, of keeping alive the original vision. To this the Lord attached his seal of approval - the stigmata.
At this juncture of history when religious orders have been directed to their original charisms, Raoul Manselli, in depicting Francis of Assisi reminds all Franciscans of the noble ideals upon which has been built the Order of Francis of Assisi.